Top 5 Tips for Planning the Best Disney World Vacation

Late last year, Grant and I took our third trip together to Disney World, and it may have been our best visit yet! In a previous post, we talked about our tips for saving big money on your trip (read how we saved over $1,000 here!), and now we’re going to share some of our best Disney planning tips. It may be a bit cheesy, but the planning of a Disney trip and the anticipation is one of my favorite parts besides the vacation itself! My Monday-Friday job is in market research/consumer insights, so researching and organizing are some of my strongest skills – and ones that are put to good use when planning our Disney vacations! Here are some of the tips and tricks I use when we start our planning process:

  1. Decide when you want to go: Everyone has their own opinion on when to visit Disney World, and now with their variable ticket pricing, it’s more important than ever to decide what works best for your vacation and budget. The past two visits, we’ve decided to go right after Thanksgiving to take advantage of a free dining promotion and experience Disney World during the early part of the Christmas season. The weather is typically great and crowds are definitely thinner than the peak times of year, so it’s been one of our favorite times to visit. If you are undecided or just overwhelmed with when to visit, I have a few great resources that I use (especially in other aspects of planning). Mousesavers has a great collection of the different Disney room rates and tracks promotional offers if you are searching for the best deal. If you are more concerned with visiting when it’s not as busy, I love the crowd calendars at WDW Prep School – they are especially helpful when you get to the point of planning your FastPass+ selections. One of the best parts of booking a Disney vacation is being able to spread out the payments. They only require a $200 deposit upon booking, and trips must be paid in full 30 days prior to your trip. If you plan a year in advance for a $3000 trip, you spend only about $250 a month to pay for your trip. TLB tip: If at all possible, try to plan your Disney World trip at least 180 days out to take full advantage of all of the planning resources. If you are making a room only reservation, you can do that up to 499 days in advance!
  2. Research dining options and be ready to make reservations: Coming from the wife and husband that can barely decide where to eat dinner on the weekend, it seems crazy that we pick where to eat at Disney 6 months in advance! There are over 130 restaurants around Disney World, Disney Springs, and the resorts, and many don’t take walk-ups during the busy season. If you have your heart set on popular favorites like Cinderella’s Royal Table, O’hana, or Be Our Guest, you better be ready at that 180 day mark! TLB Tip: When you book a vacation package with Disney, you are able to make your dining reservations for your entire stay (up to 10 days) on the 180 mark. Basically, this gives you the flexibility to book all of your reservations at one time, rather than having to book each day of your vacation separately on the 180 day mark. TLB Tip: Reservations open online at 6 AM EST, so be ready with your list ahead of time! If you can’t get the times or restaurants you want right away, don’t give up hope! MouseDining’s dining reservation tracker will alert you when a reservation frees up for your specified time.
  3. Plan for FastPass+: This can make or break a Disney vacation, especially during peak crowd times! Each day that you have a park ticket, you are allotted 3 FastPass selections at one park. Guests staying on property can select rides or attractions that they’d like to visit 60 days in advance (those off property have 30 days advance) starting at 7 AM EST. FastPass+ will give you a designated time to visit and bypass the main line – almost like a reservation! For popular rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Avatar Flight of Passage, this is a huge time-saver! Be forewarned, all parks except for Magic Kingdom have a tiered FastPass selection process, so you won’t be able to select FastPasses for all the big ticket attractions (for example, Soarin’ and Test Track are both Tier 1, so you’d have to choose between those two). Disney’s website has additional details about FastPass+ here. TLB Tip: Once you have used your first 3 Fastpasses, you are able to add another Fastpass one at a time for the remainder of the day! As soon as you scan into your third attraction, go ahead and open up your My Disney Experience app to see what is available – you never know, you may find an ellusive Slinky Dog Coaster Fastpass!
  4. Consider special ticketed events: There are two big special, ticketed events that happen at Disney each year – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (August – October) and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (November – December). While we’ve only been to the Christmas party, we’ve heard great things about the Halloween celebration too! The parties can be a little pricey, but you have access to Magic Kingdom beginning at 4 PM on the day of the party (no other park ticket required). By 7 PM when the party officially begins, crowds will start to clear out and you get to enjoy significantly shorter wait times for all of your favorite rides! Plus, there are some great snacks and character meet and greets included with the party, and it’s a great way to get excited about the holiday season.
  5. Double check park hours and confirmations: Once you get about 2 weeks out from your trip, it’s time to double check all of your information! I like to keep an Excel spreadsheet with everything we need (FastPass selections, park hours, dining reservations). A few weeks before your vacation, Disney will finalize park hours on the app and website. I like to check these especially when we have early breakfast reservations to see when parks officially open. I also typically call the dining reservation line to make sure that any allergies or celebrations have been noted on our reservations before we get there. TLB Tip: If you have a dietary restriction or allergy, Disney is incredible at accommodating and providing options! Just let your waiter know when you sit down, and most restaurants have an allergy friendly menu guide which makes it so simple, even for buffets!
Planning spreadsheet example with our dining plan allotments, reservations, and FastPass+

So there you go – our top 5 tips to planning the best Disney World vacation! We are already counting down to our next visit, which is TBD! Any other tips that you recommend for our next trip? Keep up with us on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/TheLocalBells

2019 Goals – Better Late Than Never!

So I mentioned in our previous blog post that 2019 has been off to a very busy start – hence, why we are just now getting around to talking about our 2019 goals! Grant and I sat down at the beginning of January reflecting on what all we accomplished in 2018 and how we wanted to build off of that in 2019. One of the big realizations I had wrapping up 2018 was that it can be so easy to focus on the goals you fall short on and don’t accomplish, rather than celebrating everything you were able to do. For 2019, our focuses will be about celebrating life’s little wins and having gratitude every day, even if it may seem like we’re not making as big of a dent in our long-term goals.

Without further ado, here are our goals for 2019:

  1. Eliminate all debt – With the exception of our mortgage, our goal is to be completely debt free by the end of 2019. That means no more car payments and no more student loan debt. We have just over $10,000 left, which feels a little daunting to tackle in less than 10 months. But with only 4 more car payments left and continuing to automate our payments each month, we are so close to marking this one off the list! One thing that has really helped has been making weekly additional payments on my student loans – you don’t miss an extra $50 when it lines up with payday, but it contributes a lot to decreasing that balance by the end of the month.
  2. Less mindless snacking – We are both guilty of “treating yourself” a little too often. We did a great job in 2018 with exercising and eating at home, but we also grew accustomed to having an evening snack after dinner while watching TV. I don’t even think I was hungry most of the time! It was just mindless while we watched TV or talked. In 2019, we’re trying to be more mindful of what we choose to eat. That’s not to say that we are cutting out snacks forever, just that we are trying to be smarter about weekday snacking.
  3. Be more intentional and present with our time – Technology is such a gift but it can also be the biggest distraction. It’s amazing that we’ve conditioned ourselves to treat moments of silence or boredom with the opportunity to just scroll mindlessly through social media. With our work schedules, we only get maybe 2-3 hours to spend together each week day before it’s time for bed and that decreases even more when Grant travels for work. While quantity of time isn’t the most important, quality is. For us, that means putting down the phones when we are together and trying to be more in the moment. We’re looking forward especially to the opportunity to disconnect even more when we go on our Italy trip!
  4. Read more – For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved to read. But as your day gets filled with more and more responsibilities, things like reading fall by the wayside. It’s always after a vacation full of reading that I realize how much I miss this, but it shouldn’t have to be reserved for that vacation time. It’s a great way to keep you thinking and to unwind after a long day, so it’s on my personal list to pick up a book at least a few times a week for 30 minutes or more.
  5. Anniversary trip – Although we have a big trip planned to Italy, we still want to continue the tradition of celebrating our marriage around the time of our anniversary. Quality time is both of our love languages so having that opportunity to just be together is so important. With quite a few other financial goals that we are trying to tackle this year, TBD on what this trip could turn into! In the meantime, we are hoping that Grant’s extensive traveling will result in some extra Delta Sky Miles (fingers crossed!).
  6. New living room couch – So maybe this one is more of a nice to have/want to have than an actual goal for 2019. Over the past few months, we’ve felt our house turn into a home as we’ve made it our own. The addition (finally!) of the dining room table really helped us feel the place come together, and the final big thing on our list for the downstairs entertaining area is a new couch. Hopefully in time for football season, but we will see!
  7. Be more spontaneous and spend time with friends – Once you leave college and everyone has different jobs and schedules and lives in different areas, it gets harder and harder to spend time with friends like you used to. After college, there is no set timeline either, so everyone is at a different stage in their lives. But you realize the importance of and how much you appreciate the people that are always there for you. So in 2019, we want to continue to try new things, visit new places, and spend time with the ones we love.
  8. 1 big date night per month – Perhaps “big” date night isn’t the right wording for this one. Basically, this is to force us out of the Friday night Mexican restaurant routine at least once a month to try something new. So far, we’ve been to the High Museum for Infinity Mirrors and to see Les Miserables. Our next date night that I’m super excited about is going to see Cinderella at the Fox! If you have any other suggestions for unique date night ideas, definitely let us know. So there you go! 2019 is already in full swing, and we are excited to see what all this year holds. Follow us on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/TheLocalBells for more.

Planning for Italy – Tips, Tricks, & Recommendations

If you can’t tell from the lack of blog posts so far this year, 2019 has been off to an incredibly busy start for both of us. Work has been crazy and somehow we are already at the end of February! Some days it’s hard to make time for the things we want to do opposed to the things we need to do, so having a vacation on the not-so-distant horizon is keeping us excited for the days ahead. I’d mentioned previously that we are planning a trip to Italy in May, so I wanted to share some of our tips and tricks that we’ve used in planning so far.

  1. Be flexible on the time of year: Italy has been on Grant and I’s travel bucket list for some time. 11 years ago, we met on our first Europe trip through a high school study abroad program to Italy and Greece in April and the weather was great – not too hot or cold and right before the peak of tourist season. We credit that trip with the start of our friendship, relationship, and now marriage, so we knew we had to go back someday! When starting to plan for our trip together this year, we researched and found that we needed to book flights at least 3 months out, so the earliest we could go was March. With our work vacation day schedule, I knew I needed to use days before the end of May so that gave us about a 3 month window of when we would want to go. After researching several blogs on the cheapest time to visit Italy, looking at historical weather information, and comparing flight prices across multiple time periods, we decided that May checked all the boxes for us. TLB Tip: Google flights is a great tool to track flight prices across multiple airlines and Skyscanner is a fantastic tool if you are flexible on where to go or what time of year.
  2. Consider all forms of transportation: It goes without saying that the only way to get from Atlanta to Italy is to fly (or take a very long boat ride). Our trip is unique in that we will start our vacation in one city and end in another – which can make it a little complicated when booking flights. When we started looking at flights, some one way trips can cost more than a round trip, so try to book round trip or a multi-city flight all at once whenever you can! We knew we wanted to try and maximize the Delta SkyMile points we had, so it took some careful planning and being flexible with our travel plans, but in the end we spent just over $1,000 on our airfare. If we had paid out of pocket for our flights we used miles for, the one way legs would have been upwards of $3,000 each! To get to each of the cities we’ll be visiting, we will be taking trains as opposed to driving or flying. Total cost for trains was under $200 and will be significantly easier and take less time than if we were to fly to each location. TLB Tip: Buying your train tickets online was very easy and much less stressful than purchasing in person at the train station. Plus, you can get a better discount the further in advance you book!
  3. Look beyond hotels: Traveling to a foreign country can be intimidating when you don’t speak the local language, so it’s easy to default to hotels when looking for accommodations. Before we started our search, Grant and I agreed on a maximum price per night that we felt comfortable spending for a hotel and realized we could get so much more and a more authentic experience by staying at Airbnbs. Not only will we stay off the beaten path, but we’ll enjoy some additional benefits of being able to have a kitchen to cook some meals and a place to do laundry. Plus, these places have some INCREDIBLE views! Stay tuned for our full reviews of each location after our trip! TLB Tip: If you are new to Airbnb, use our link to sign up and receive a discount on your first stay!
  4. Try something new: While this isn’t our first time to Italy, it will be our first time to some of these cities and our first visit as a married couple. We are excited to visit some of the tourist attractions in each city like the art mueseums, but we are also looking forward to experiences that immerse ourselves into the Italian culture. We’re talking hole-in-the-wall restaurants and places that only the locals know about. We also plan to do at least one type of local activity in each city – our first one planned is pizza making in Sorrento and then a wine tasting in Tuscany! Any other suggestions for Florence and Venice?
  5. Plan early for savings: It is never too early to start saving for a big trip, whether it’s vacation days or money. By giving ourselves over 5 months to plan, we have the ability to split up our payments and not have everything due at the same time. Most Airbnb listings allow you to pay half or the full amount at booking too, which was a great way for us to book the places we wanted and spread out our costs. And along the way with our usual day to day spending, we’re earning cash back that we can put towards food and activities while we are in Italy. TLB Tip: Be sure to check the terms of your credit and debit cards to see what their international usage policies are and be sure to updates your banks before you go so your card isn’t frozen!

Do you have any tips or suggestions for us to consider before our trip in May? Any must-do activities in Sorrento, Florence, or Venice? Share with us below in the comments!

Follow along with us on Instagram at www.instagram.com/TheLocalBells

5 Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad

10 years ago, Grant and I signed up for our school’s spring break European studies trip to Greece and Italy. Fast forward to now, and we are married! Had it not been for that trip, we would have never met and been where we are now. Since that first trip, Grant had the opportunity to go on another European studies trip to Paris, London, and Rome in high school, while I spent 11 weeks traveling and studying in Europe during college. All incredible experiences that we wouldn’t trade for the world! Thinking about studying abroad? Read our 5 reasons why you should definitely take that leap and experience other places.IMG_2670

5. Opportunity to see so many incredible places, often that are planned for you. During all of our study abroad adventures, we were part of a larger group that traveled together over the course of the trip. When it comes to getting reservations at museums like the Louvre or the Vatican, going with a tour group is awesome for getting priority. Traveling to a new country can seem daunting at first, so it was really nice to have a group of people that were in the same boat with you. As you get more familiar with the area, not only do you feel more confident in planning your own excursions during downtime, but you have people to enjoy it with you! Between the two of us, we’ve been to Italy, France, Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, England, Austria, and Africa.

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The Vatican Museum

4. Experience new cultures, history, and food that is completely different than life back home. When you think about the fact that the United States was formed back in 1776, we really don’t have the rich history, architecture, and culture that you find in most any city in Europe. The Roman Forum dates back to 800 BC by some accounts and many of the original arches, buildings, and ruins are still standing today. It’s absolutely amazing to see these incredible sites that had stood the test of time. While we love to visit the typical tourist attractions like the Colosseum or Eiffel Tower, getting local recommendations on where to get the best gelato or margarita pizza really allow you to see the authentic culture.

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Palace of Versailles in France

3. Learn more about yourself by honing real life skills like having to manage a budget, navigating new cities, and being independent. During my high school study abroad, we had multiple chaperones (thanks, Mom & Dad!) and teachers that did most of the planning and money management. When I studied abroad in college, a lot of that quickly became my own responsibility. Knowing that I had a set budget for the entire summer, I had to figure out my budget by city and how I wanted to allocate it. When gelato and having to use the bathroom cost the same (yes, Europe still charges to use public restrooms in most places!), you have to make that tough call.

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View of Florence from Michelangelo’s Hill

2. You likely won’t ever have the time to travel and experience this much of the world. Now, several years out of college, it’s harder and harder to take time off and budget for long trips out of the country. You don’t realize how precious your time is, and there is no better time to travel and experience the world than when you are young and have limited responsibilities. A lot of college programs also have financial aid options and scholarships for study abroad, which was how I was able to spend those 11 weeks abroad. I had known since high school that I wanted to do this particular program, so I started researching financial aid and scholarship options so that I was prepared. As working adults, we just don’t have the vacation time to travel like we used too, and with international flights costing $1,500+, it’s hard to convince yourself that a 5 day trip would be worth it.

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Mykonos, Greece

1. You never know who you might meet! Grant and I met back in 2008 in Greece and Italy, and my sister actually met her now husband during our study abroad trip to Europe in 2012. For both of those trips, I really didn’t know many people. When you are thrown into a whirlwind adventure, you start making connections with people you might have never met before. It was a great opportunity to build new relationships outside of our friend group. And for some of these friendships and relationships, they have proved to be lifelong.

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Study Abroad 2008

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Study Abroad 2012

So, have we convinced you to consider studying abroad? What is on your list of “must visit” locations? And if anyone comes up with an “working adult” version of study abroad, sign us up!

Follow along on Instagram at www.instagram.com/thelocalbells

Do You Want to Build a Snowman? Or Ski? Or Snowmobile? – Adventures in Park City (Part 2)

When you think Park City, one of the first things that come to mind is their world-class skiing. Park City is home to Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort, the annual Sundance Film Festival, and was also the site for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The ski season typically ranges from November until April, though can sometimes extend into June if they have an awesome snow season. This year was a late start for snow – a lot of locals told us if we had come a month prior, there wouldn’t have been much snow at all!

So when you are in a city known for its amazing snow and skiing, you make it a point to see what all the hype is about! We decided that we would ski at Park City Mountain, as it offered the most extensive options for ski lifts and runs, particularly for beginners. Meagan skied growing up, but it had been about 12 years since she had hit the slopes. Grant had never skied before (he had tried snowboarding once), so we knew we needed to start slow. TLB Tip: We did some research online and found we’d get the best deal on lift tickets by purchasing directly through Park City Mountain at least a week in advance. We were a little taken aback by how expensive the tickets were – over $400 for two people skiing on Friday and Saturday, so definitely keep that in mind during your ski trip planning. The tickets were mailed to us before our trip, so we didn’t have to wait in the super long lift ticket line once we arrived, which was a huge plus. The passes ordered ahead of time look a lot like a credit card. You stick it in any of your jacket pockets and the Park City Mountain staff is able to scan it right through your jacket before you get on the lifts.

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Before we could hit the slopes, we stopped by the Ski’N’See rental shop in the Prospector lobby to rent our ski equipment. TLB Tip: We made a reservation for our equipment in advance and ended up saving about 25%! Two days of rentals including boots, skis, poles, and helmets ran us just under $200 total. Luckily, we were able to raid Meagan’s family’s ski bag and borrow some of the other winter weather essentials like goggles, gloves, and hats.

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Friday morning, we hit the road at 8 AM to get to Park City Mountain before it opened at 9 AM. Again, the Park City Transit bus system was a super convenient (and free!) way to get us to the mountain, with the only disadvantage being having to carry all of our ski equipment with us there and back. Once we got there and the lifts officially opened for the day, we popped our skis on and made our way to the aptly named “First Time” lift for our first run of the trip (and first time ever for Grant!). Luckily, we made it on and off the chairlift successfully! We spent the rest of the morning continuing down the “First Time” run to get more comfortable and confident before heading up the “Payday” lift to a longer green run, starting about halfway up the mountain.

This new run, “Homerun,” is a 3.5 mile long green run that takes you down the mountain right back to the resort center. Meagan isn’t a huge fan of the chairlift (thanks, fear of heights), so this was a great long run before having to head back to the lifts. Both Friday and Saturday, we stuck with the green runs, not quite ready to make the jump to blues. It was a little windy out too, but luckily temperatures stayed in the 30’s so we really weren’t that cold. Despite not getting any fresh powder, the runs were groomed beautifully and the ground snow conditions were still pretty good for us novice skiers. The picture below perfectly captures how we navigated the mountain!

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All in all, it was a successful two days of skiing! You do forget how physically demanding it is to ski all day, so it’s likely we would stick to 2 or 3 days in the future (or shorter days). A big success was no injuries on either side (luckily the snow was soft for the few tumbles that happened). Unfortunately, we forgot to have our snowball fight and didn’t build a snowman – but that gives us something to look forward to next time!

If skiing isn’t for you, Park City has a ton of other snow activity options including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or sleigh rides. Meagan had the chance to go snowmobiling earlier in the week before Grant arrived. If you’ve ridden a Jet-ski before, snowmobiling is very similar. Meagan went to Red Pine Adventures for a 2 hour guided tour that took the group on trails up and down the mountain, getting as high as 10,000 feet. The views were stunning and if you have a need for speed, then this activity is right up your alley!

Stay tuned for our final post on the best eats and drinks in Park City. Follow along with us on Instagram at www.instagram.com/thelocalbells 

Park City Adventures – Travel & Accommodations (Part 1)

After a whirlwind long weekend (and battling a foot of snow!), we are back from our incredible trip to Park City! The snow conditions out there are the best of the season, so we can’t wait to share our favorite parts of our trip in case you are headed there as well.

We’ve had the opportunity to travel together to a variety of different places including New Orleans, Charleston, Playa del Carmen, Orlando, Dallas, West Palm Beach, Washington D.C., and New Smyrna Beach, but we have never ventured anywhere with snow and winter activities. Meagan had a conference in Salt Lake City Monday through Thursday, so we decided it was the perfect opportunity for Grant to fly out for the long weekend. We started looking at flights and accommodations back in late December/early January, to get an idea of what to expect for our budget. Despite Atlanta being a big airline hub, there weren’t a lot of great flight options to Salt Lake City. Direct flights were almost $200 more than flights with connections, so we decided the cheaper cost was worth the minor inconvenience of having to connect through other cities. For our trip, we used Southwest – we highly recommend Southwest for all trips, and especially ski trips where you have a lot of extra baggage since two checked bags fly for free! TLB tip: Southwest often selects one-hour layovers – be sure to check historical data regarding flight on-time records to make sure you are comfortable with such a short time-frame! In our case, it worked perfectly and got us to our destinations almost as quickly as a direct flight, but it could have been disastrous if our first leg had been delayed or canceled.

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We both flew in the the Salt Lake City International Airport before making the trek through the canyon and to the mountains of Park City. We ended up taking an Uber from downtown Salt Lake City instead of renting a car, making the assumption that it would be the cheaper option (little did we know…) and so we had the peace of mind that neither of us would have to drive through any snow. Us Atlantans have a bad history with snow (i.e. Snowpacalypse/Snowmageddon 2014), so we weren’t going to take any chances! The Uber ended up costing around $50 for the 40 minute drive to our Airbnb accommodations in Prospector Square – all in all, not too bad! When we were researching options of where to stay, we looked first at Park City Mountain Resort, but quickly realized that three nights there was going to be way more expensive than we wanted. Our two requirements were a total cost of under $1,000 and walking distance to Park City Mountain for skiing or easy access to public transportation. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at Airbnb options, which turned out to be a great decision. There are so many rental options in the Park City area, but they go fast during the peak February-March ski season.

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We ran across Ted and Heidi’s Silver Snow Wonder condo, which is located in Prospector Square, just a few miles from Downtown Park City and Park City Mountain Resort. For three nights during peak season, we were easily able to stay in our budget. The condo offers two queen beds, a 55 inch flat screen TV, huge shower, bathroom with a double sink, and a small kitchenette area with mini fridge, microwave, and Keurig. One thing to note – there is no washer or drier in the condo (which would probably be preferred if staying closer to a week). The condo looked recently renovated and was tastefully decorated – think Flip or Flop’s style with the white subway tiles and grey floors, reflecting the tranquility and beauty of Park City in the snow. The condo is also located on the first floor, which was a huge plus after a long day of skiing! The condo was just a short walk to two different bus stops as well, all part of the free Park City Transit System.

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Check-in at the Prospector was super easy, and we were even able to check in a few hours early. Ted and Heidi were wonderful hosts – we arrived to a small basket of snacks and water from them, as well as a variety of K-cup options for morning coffee. Before we arrived, they gave us some great recommendations for food and places to go, as well as sharing a discount code for our ski rentals at the Ski’N’See shop located in the Prospector main lobby. The condo was the perfect size for the two of us (though it might have been a tight squeeze with four people and all of the ski equipment) and great location with easy access to everything we wanted to do in Park City. We made great use of the bus system in getting to and from Downtown Park City for dinners and going to Park City Mountain for skiing.

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The only downside of staying in Park City is having to go back through the canyon to get to the airport in Salt Lake City. It’s somewhat of a catch-22 – you want beautiful snow for your ski trip, but if it snows too much, you won’t even be able to get to your resort, or in our case you won’t be able to get to the airport to go home! Our flight was scheduled for 12:30 on Sunday afternoon, and we woke up to over a foot of snow outside our window, with even more coming down! Starting at 8 AM, we started requesting Ubers and Lyfts, in hopes there would be someone willing and able to get us to the airport. After multiple drivers canceled our rides upon learning we were heading to the airport, we tried not to panic and kept our fingers crossed until we finally had confirmation that Jodi was on her way to pick us up! She was one of our best Uber drivers yet, and delivered us safe and sound (despite the horrible road conditions) to the airport. Unlike the $50 Uber trip to Park City, this one to the airport ended up costing nearly $200… We are very grateful we made our flight and arrived safely, but that charge made us cringe with the Uber surge pricing. Definitely keep a little buffer in your budget for unexpected Uber surge charges and any inclement weather!

All in all, the travel and accommodations for our trip went pretty smoothly! As always, build in a little extra time for weather delays and pad your budget for unexpected costs. For anyone thinking about booking a trip to Park City, definitely take a look at the beautiful Silver Snow Wonder condo! New to Airbnb? Use our link here for $40 in travel credit when you sign up here.

Stay tuned for our posts on snow activities and great food from Park City! Follow along through our Instagram at instagram.com/thelocalbells 

Where To Next?

Back in January, we shared our goals for 2018. So far, we’ve been staying on track with exercising and eating at home, and we are making progress on our financial goals after officially combining our accounts (not as hard as we expected!). However, the one area we want to start planning more is our travel and vacation plans for the year. With both of us working traditional 9 to 5 jobs, we have a finite amount of time to escape the work grind and want to use this first year of marriage to visit new places. So where to next?

That appears to be the million dollar question.

Between the two of us, Grant tends to be more spontaneous and ready to try new things while Meagan prefers to plan every last detail and stick with the tried and true. We started brainstorming some ideas for this year and ended up with with too many options and no decisions! So what’s stopping us?

  • Do we take one big vacation or several smaller ones? In 2017, our honeymoon was our big trip of the year (and definitely worth it – see our full review here!). Now that we aren’t planning a wedding, we have more vacation time to spread out throughout the course of the year. In a study cited by the New York Times, research has found that several smaller vacation per year rather than one big one boosts overall happiness more than when taking one long vacation. And even more than that, the actual planning and anticipation of a vacation boosts happiness for up to 8 weeks! With that in mind, we lean more towards planning several smaller trips this year. Ideally, we’d like to plan a few long weekend trips, a short summer trip, an anniversary trip in November, and take some time off around Christmas and New Years. South Africa, Europe, and somewhere in the South Pacific are still on the bucket list for some of those longer trip options in the future though!
  • How much should we budget for our vacation fund? There are mixed options about how much to spend on travel each year. Forbes reports that Americans spend 10% of their annual incomes on vacations. While we aren’t paying for a wedding this year, we are working hard to pay down student and car loans as well as saving for a down payment for a house. Planning domestic trips and ones that are driving distances instead of flying will help us keep our vacation costs lower. For our trip this week, we are staying at a condo through Airbnb, which was over 50% less than staying at a hotel resort. (If you are new to Airbnb, use this link to save $40 on your first stay) We also plan to utilize any of our credit card perks or cash back this year to help with some vacation costs. With Meagan being a planner, we have time to research, save, and hopefully get the best deals!
  • Where should we go? We are all over the place on this one and could definitely use some inspiration and suggestions! We’ve talked about Hilton Head or Destin for a beach trip, as they’re both about 6 hours away driving distance. There are some great Airbnb rental options and we both could use a good dose of “vitamin sea!” We’ve never been to Savannah or Asheville together and would love to explore the historic sites along the river or experience the Biltmore Estate. For our anniversary, we’ve looked into New York City, the Florida Keys, or Disney World – planning to splurge the most on this trip this year. We loved our relaxing honeymoon in paradise, but are looking for adventure in our first anniversary trip. Ultimately, we are looking to plan 4-5 smaller trips this year within the domestic U.S., ideally spending around $1,000-$1,500 per trip.

We are off to Park City, Utah for our first trip of the year this week – stay tuned for our post next week! In the meantime, we welcome any and all suggestions on other places to go this year, as well as any tips for planning and saving money along the way. Be sure to follow along with our Instagram at www.instagram.com/thelocalbells